Yes, Vladimir Putin is universally despised as a ruthless war criminal, too well trained by the KGB, a narcissistic sociopath far more skilled than Trump in the dark arts of genocide and general destruction. Yet, there is so much more to the story.
During his reign over the ‘new’ Russia, the West’s strategy of containment by economic engagement has incorporated commercial ties of mutual dependency. That arrangement gave Europeans and Americans a complacency that failed to account for Putin’s merciless ambition to create the Russian (Soviet) Empire of his fantasies. However, in geopolitical terms, so much more is involved.
The Oil War that Threatens Collapse of Civilization
One distinct consequence of Vladimir the Terrible’s invasion and genocide in Ukraine is that its horror and headlines distract us from the relentless march of climate chaos as the world’s petro-nations plunder the planet. What some call the “global north”—that is, Europe, the US, Australia, and the rapidly industrializing nations of Asia—continues to emit more and more carbon into the atmosphere. Modern warfare accelerates the emissions of carbon and many other toxic pollutants into our environment.
The invasion and failing attempts to occupy Ukraine, topple its democratically elected government, and assassinate its heroic president, Zelinsky, have exposed the underlying web of relations among the opposing sides. An intricate network of interdependencies among Russian and American nations, and fossil-fuel corporations as well as the banks that fund them, benefits immensely from this war as well as many others. It is only the people and civilization’s infrastructure that suffers from war—never the elites who supply the armaments and energy of destruction.
War on the World
This new cycle of geopolitical struggle tends to turn our attention onto the pain and suffering of its victims—how could it not, especially with the pervasive video coverage of the carnage streamed to everyone’s screens? At the same time, we should remember that military actions pose one of the greatest threats to our habitats as well. The instruments of war are some of the most polluting agents on the planet.
The violence of war is merely the most powerful extension of the general violence against planet and people, perpetuated by the broader culture of conquest. When a society perceives its own habitat as nothing more than a vessel containing the materials and energy it needs to expand and control Nature itself, plunder is the dominant value realized.
The consequence of the outlook that values dominance and control over everything else is ultimately self-destructive. The desire to dominate Nature as well as other human groups is ultimately suicidal as well as homicidal. It is founded in the unbridled impulse to control both Nature and other humans. Ultimately, that control becomes self-destructive
Awakening to the New Great Transformation
Because of the expansion of the human population across the planet and the destruction of ecosystems and climate in its wake, the very Earth System upon which we depend for survival, has entered a New Great Transformation to a state of instability and breakdown. Most humans do not yet understand this—even some of the smartest academic, corporate, and government elites.
Yet, growing numbers of citizens, writers, and every legitimate Earth System scientist, have made a crucial paradigm shift. They have abandoned the linear thinking about relatively simple causal relations (outside the context of many other interacting causal relations) that has driven the science, technology, and economic growth of the industrial world. They now embrace either formally or intuitively the paradigm that understands complex adaptive living systems.
The problem with the old paradigm is that it works against the Nature of the complex systems that constitute our habitat, instead of harmonizing with them to the benefit of all. We have reached the existential limits of the old paradigm that arose when few people explored and learned to control much of a relatively unpopulated world.
Our technical prowess has outrun its limits, and has gravely disrupted the very systems upon which we all depend. From the steppes of Eurasia through medieval Europe, the culture of violent domination of Nature and humanity brought us unsustainable industrial modernity and now the Anthropocene. A New Great Transformation of human societies is now inevitable. Its form and direction is up to us.